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New Fish Species Found In the Salish Sea

Oct 09, 2015 05:44 PM EDT
Halfbanded Rockfish
Halfbanded rocketfish swimming near purple gorgonian coral.
(Photo : Flickr: California Department of Fish and Wildlife)

Fish native to the Salish Sea – such as Coho salmon, Pacific halibut and dogfish shark – have some new neighbors to mingle with. The diversity of fish species living in the region has increased by 14 percent, say researchers from the University of Washington who recently documented 253 fish living in this area, 37 of which have recently moved in. The university's report represents the most comprehensive study regarding fish species in the area, and the findings will help conservationists assess and manage fish populations that may be in danger of disappearing.   

"It's quite astonishing to think that people haven't really known what's here in any detail," Ted Pietsch, co-author and a professor from the University of Washington, said in a news release. "In preparing this report, we've really turned over every stone to make sure we have every fish species ever recorded from our inland marine waters."

The Salish Sea is a 6,500-square-mile region comprised of a network of coastal waterways extending from the southwestern portion of the British Columbia into the northwestern portion of Washington. The network of waterways includes the Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Strait of Georgia, the San Juan Islands and the Canadian Gulf Islands.

Longfin Sculpin
(Photo : Joseph R. Tomelleri/UW Today)
An illustration of the longfin sculpin (Jordania zonope).

In total, 37 new species were added to the list of known fish living in the area, some of which include the prickly sculpin, Bering eelpout, spotted cusk-eel and the halfbanded rockfish. Researchers were also unable to account for five species previously known  to inhabit the area, so those were removed from the list

"If you don't first know what you have, it's impossible to know what you might be losing," Pietsch told UW today, the University of Washington's campus newspaper. 

The full study was published online by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 

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